Success

by Tony Hoagland
Featured Art: Space Riders – Tom O’Hara

After a year of rehab and therapy, the country western singer
went back to writing songs; but he had changed.

Lyrics like, “Good Boundaries Make a Better Kind of Friend,”
and, “When You Say Bye, I Feel So Violated”

—they simply didn’t have the punch of his best work.

*****

In New York, Famous Joe’s Pizza Parlor on Travis Street
is suing Joe’s Famous Pizza on East Ninth Ave for stealing its name.

The battle rapidly grows vicious. The courtroom smells
of melted, burning cheese.

If he wins, Famous Joe says that his attorney will get free slices for life.

*****

“Jesus had a great career,” says one of the students, on Monday morning,
reading out loud from his assignment;
then, sensing an uneasy silence, “Well, but he was famous, wasn’t he?”

*****

The mountain climber who actually made it to the summit,
the place so many of his friends had failed to reach,
got one great photograph, plus permanent damage
to nerves in his nose and his ears, both hands and feet.

*****

“If I hadn’t dropped out of cooking school,” says Gretchen, happily,
“I would never have mastered my
Sunday morning waffles for screaming kids,
which I believe will be my greatest legacy.”

*****

Why don’t you tell me about your life for a change?
Did you carry it carefully, like a brimful cup of water,
bound for a particular flower?
Or did you keep accidentally turning around
to look at something else,
and slosh it all over the place, like me?


Tony Hoagland’s latest collections of poems are Recent Changes in the Vernacular (Tres Chicas Books, 2017) and Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God (Gray- wolf, 2018). His book of essays, The Art of Voice: Poetic Principles and Practice (Norton), was published in March 2019. “Sunday at the Mall,” included here, was also known as “Last Poem for Kath.” Tony Hoagland died in October 2018.

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